You have problems, I have advice. This advice isn't sugar-coated - in fact, it's sugar-free, and may even be a little bitter. Welcome to Tough Love.
This week we have a son who's starting to resent visiting his boring family.
'.You have problems, I have advice. This advice isn't sugar-coated - in fact, it's sugar-free, and may even be a little bitter. Welcome to Tough Love..'
Keep in mind, I'm not a therapist or any other kind of health professional - just a guy who's willing to tell it like it is. I simply want to give you the tools you need to enrich your damn lives. If for whatever reason you don't like my advice, feel free to file a formal complaint here. Now then, let's get on with it.
How do you repair relationships with your parents? Can they even be repaired? Growing up, my dad and I always used to be fairly close. Played chess and tennis together, talked, rode bikes, got advice, went on walks, and so on. It seemed like a pretty good relationship growing up. But as the years have passed, it seems like we're growing further and further apart. The conversations have run dry for the most part, he can't/won't do many of the things we used to, and there's basically a wall between us.
Every time I go to visit, my mum cooks this endless dinner and all he wants to do is watch TV and drink. I hate just sitting there and binge eating, watching TV. I also don't drink, so I can't be his drinking buddy. I try to engage him (both my parents really, not just him), but they always turn me down. I get it, he's too old for tennis, but a walk in the park is certainly doable. Even so, movies, museums, theatre, chess, social events… they won't have any of it. Just eat, watch TV and drink. Every now and then they will crack a bad joke (this ranges from poor taste or inconsiderate to racist comments). Frankly, I'm starting to resent visiting them. I see the whole experience in a negative light.
I don't want to have this kind of relationship with them; I feel horrible about it. They are my parents, they took care of me, brought me up. I can't just walk away because we have different perspectives. How do I turn this around? How can I engage them? Can I have a meaningful relationship with them? Do I just keep visiting them, grit my teeth, and keep the status quo? I will shoulder some of the blame for this; I'm not that great when it comes to relationships to begin with. This is not just me bad talking them. That's why I need some help.
Hey Sombre Son,
You say you want to repair your relationship with your folks, but honestly, your relationship with them isn't all that broken to begin with. You still talk and spend time together, you're not being abused, and from what I can gather, they're not even being disapproving or unproud of you. It's great that you want to make things better, it is, but don't act like this is some horrible situation when it's really just kind of a boring disappointment.
I know going home to them is a drag, and you don't have much to connect with them over, but remember, they probably just like having you around. You're their son and they miss you. They have settled into a new routine now that the nest is empty and they have gotten older. You've gotten older and probably changed too. The reason you feel like you've grown apart is because, well, you have. I think you need to come to terms with that to some extent. It's never going to be the same way it was when you were a kid. Show up, give them your love, and try to find something you enjoy when you're around them. Get nostalgic if you have to. That being said, there are a couple things you can do to try and make things better:
- Plan things ahead of time: As people get older they sometimes lose their sense of spontaneity and whimsy. Approaching your dad to do something with you after he's cracked open a beer and sunk into the couch to watch the game isn't going to work. Also, if you can help it, don't ask. Asking gives them the opportunity to pass and go back to mouldering in the house. Get tickets to the museum before you even come home and tell your mum and dad when you're going. Tell them you love them and be very adamant about how doing something together as a family is important to you and that you won't take no for an answer.
- Have shorter, more frequent visits: If you still can't get them to do things with you, accept how things are now, and spend less time at home with each visit. Head home more frequently so your folks still get to see you (which is what they really want), and just get out of dodge before you start to get so bored you begin to resent them.
Lastly, Sombre Son, I suggest you do a little soul searching here and dig up some gratitude. Be thankful you even have a family home to go back to, with parents who want to be around you and cook for you. In the end, it isn't about what you all do together, it's about the time you have with each other. Appreciate it, however you can.
That's it for this week. I probably didn't make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, but sometimes what you need is some tough love. 'Til next time, figure things out for yourself.